Youssou N’Dour Invades Brooklyn Academy Of Music

Youssou N’Dour & his longtime band Le Super Etoile de Dakar at BAM; May 20 (and 21) 2016

Youssou N’Dour is one of the most famous singers in the world and is without doubt the African artist with the greatest name recognition both on his home continent and off it.  His work with Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon in the eighties on the So and Graceland albums introduced him to the fans of those artists.  His participation in the Human Rights Now Tour, along with Springsteen, Sting, Gabriel, and Tracy Chapman in 1988 further raised his profile.  I was among an intimate group of 100,000, seated approximately one mile from the stage, at the old – and then on its last legs – JFK Stadium in Philly.  I did not take this horrendously staged publicity photo.  Only Tracy Chapman refused the photographer’s feeble request to raise their hands!

Youssou with gangYoussou N’Dour’s notoriety is certainly not without merit.  He’s a euphonious singer with tremendous range and an electric performer.  He’s known primarily for mbalax which, as he explained at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Friday night, is not the only style he works in nor is it the only style of Senegal, his home country.  However people tend to include all his music under that banner. Mbalax mixes traditional West African music, including the use of the talking drum, with pop and other western forms.  It’s rooted in the Wolof language and N’Dour explained that it’s difficult for musicians to get the hang of especially if they don’t know the language.  However, the thrilling rhythms it produces certainly need no translation.

BAM DancersDancers took the stage as well…
In fact, Senegalese dancers – some of whom appeared during this show – will take the stage again at this venue later this week as part of the DanceAfrica Festival running May 25th through 30th.  Look for N’dour’s new album Senegaal Rek – some of which can already be heard online – in September.

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